Book Reviews -- By: Matthew S. DeMoss
BSac 168:671 (July-September 2011) p. 353
By The Faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary
Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. By Rob Bell. New York: HarperOne, 2011. xiv + 201 pp. $22.99.
With a subtitle that sounds like a bit of marketing hyperbole, Bell, the founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, has garnered extensive attention with his most recent book. He explains that the purpose of the book is to introduce the reader “to the ancient, ongoing discussion surrounding the resurrected Jesus in all its vibrant, diverse, messy, multivoiced complexity” (p. xi). As the title and subtitle make clear, this book purports to present Bell’s view of heaven, hell, and the destiny of humanity.
The book begins with a series of questions about the gospel and how the Bible describes it and the response that is required. Bell demonstrates that many of the responses Christians have given require something in addition to belief in order to be saved. The purpose of this chapter, however, appears not to emphasize that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, but that the Bible and Christians throughout history are characterized by a great deal of diversity, perhaps even to the point of inconsistency and contradiction. By pitting biblical language against other biblical language and using it to frame provocative questions, Bell raises many unanswered questions. But he reminds his readers, “This isn’t just a book of questions. It’s a book of responses to those questions” (p. 19). Yet the reader who expects to find clear, concise, unambiguous answers to those questions will be disappointed. Instead the responses Bell gives throughout the book are often unclear and uncertain, and sometimes seem to be contradictory.
In the chapter called “Here Is the New There,” Bell addresses the common understanding of heaven as a place “somewhere else,” a place characterized by “harps and clouds and streets of gold, everybody dressed in white robes” (p. 24). Bell’s call to view the work of redemption culminating in a new creation is helpful as is his reminder that eternal life, or heaven, has present and future effects. The hope found in the Scriptures is “a coming day when the world would be restored, renewed, and redeemed and there would be peace on earth” (p. 40). Bell writes, “Jesus teaches us to pursue the life of heaven now and also then, anticipating the day when earth and heaven are one” (p. 46). Echoing the Lord’s Prayer, he explains, “A proper view of heaven leads not to escape from the world, but to full engagement with it, all with the anticipation of a coming day when thin...
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